7. Festinger Cognitive Dissonance Experiment

Festinger Cognitive Dissonance Experiment

The idea of cognitive dissonance is that we experience stress when our actions and our thoughts do not line up. The theory extols that we will go to great lengths to reduce this dissonance. Leon Festinger gave his participants the incredibly boring task of putting spools on a tray, over and over again. He had two groups, one paid group and one unpaid group.

At the end of the experiment, he gave the participants a questionnaire asking them how enjoyable the task was. He found that the unpaid group enjoyed the task more than the paid group. Festinger figured that the unpaid group had a higher enjoyment of the task because of cognitive dissonance. They disliked the task but continued with it anyway and they needed their thoughts to reflect this behavior. The paid group already had their justification to continue the experiment so they did not have to adjust their thoughts to reduce cognitive dissonance.

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